CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Music has always been an outlet for young people. 

For some, that lifeline boosts self-confidence and provides a source of identity.

One local teen finds solitude listening to Wu-Tang Clan and other hip-hop artists.

“That’s what music is to me; it’s just my happy place,” said DJ Wildcard, who’s most comfortable blaring familiar beats. “It feels like I’m the only person in that room.”

He’s one of the success stories at Backspinz Music Academy, a free program that gives young creators a safe space where they learn how to parlay their passion into a profession.

Backspinz, located at the VAPA Center, empowers music creators to do what they love and make some money. The academy provides after-school programs for students 9-17.

“I think we have a very creative energy,” said Claude Whitfield, the founder of the nonprofit.

“I’d really seen how technology was playing a part in our music,” he told Queen City News. “And I wanted to make sure that I did my part in helping our young or next generation.”

Learning how to cash in is life-changing, says DJ Wildcard. The 14-year-old owns Wildcard Entertainment, which deploys DJs at local events. He seems on his way to being a player in the music business.

“I hope to start my own record label and help local artists achieve their dreams,” he said.

“And we always put them in a position to monetize because the reality is that our young people want to make money,” Whitfield explained.

Along with its focus on financial literacy, Backspinz includes a production lab, advanced music training, and mentoring.

Shawty Slim’s also in the house.

“It just feels right,” said Shawty, who came to the program to serve community service after getting into legal trouble for graffiti-related vandalism. 

Today, he’s a budding producer who also DJs to earn money.

“Man, I don’t know where I would be if I had never been blessed with the opportunities that I have,” Slim said.

“He put aside what had happened and really focused on what he needed to do to stay out of trouble,” said Whitfield.

Backspinz offers creative freedom and a place to collaborate. As they put in the work, creators start small but think big.

“And I also want to be the person who put Charlotte on the map,” DJ Wildcard said.